The Media Learning Curve: Super Bowls, Pro Bowls, pro bowlers and stupid-early UCLA tipoffs

Much ado aside from the annual relaunch of the Best and Worst of L.A. Sports Media (linked here). The rest of the world exists on:

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== You ain’t gettin’ John Madden on a bus to Hawaii, so Al Michaels will be joined by Cris Collinsworth on NBC’s coverage of the Pro Bowl (Sunday, 1:30 p.m., Channel 4). Andrea Kremer and Tiki Barber (whose brother Ronde is in the game) also earned the flight to Honolulu (next year, Miami!) as NBC has this meaningless exhibition for the first time in 35 years (maybe not willingly). NBC promises at halftime, Michaels will talk to Madden from his undisclosed home in Northern California. And as if it matters, all six QBs — Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Jay Cutler and Kerry Collins — no Brett Favre? no wonder Madden didn’t go — will wear microphones during the game as well as two defensive players to be determined. Wow, almost like the XFL.

By the way, that’s N.Y. Giants punter Jeff Feagles trying on a vintage leather helmet during an NFC practice this week. He wears that in the game, we’re watching for sure.

History note: The last NBC broadcast of the Pro Bowl was on Jan. 20, 1974 from Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City when the AFC, coached by Madden, defeated the NFC 15-13 on five Garo Yepremian field goals. That musta been compelling TV.

== But when you think Pro Bowl, you gotta think professional bowling, and Fountain Valley, the only Southern California stop for the Lumber Liquidators PBA. ESPN has the aptly named Denny’s Dick Weber Open — free grand slams for eveyone! no? — from the Fountain Bowl out there in Orange County (Sunday, 10 a.m.) with a total prize of $181,000. Which can be converted to S&H Green Stamps.

== As for Super Bowl XLIII: The NFL Network repeats the Pittsburgh-Arizona game in its entirety — complete with halftime show — Sunday at 5:30 p.m. We’ll refrain from giving away the ending.

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== Alex Solis and Mike Smith are two of the jockeys featured in an Animal Planet 12-episode series, “Jockeys: Win Or Die Trying,” that premieres tonight at 9 p.m. Billed as a documentary-soap opera, the show follows seven riders — including Chantal Sutherland, Joe Talamo, Jon Court, Aaron Gryder and Kayla Stra on and off the racetrack. Since Smith is dating Sutherland (pictured) — the only female jockey to race in the recent Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita — they’re the focus of the first episode — she’s leaving her family to move to Southern California so she can be with Smith and try to elevate her career. More info (linked here)

== Mike Breen, Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy do the Lakers-Cavs game from Cleveland for ABC (Sunday, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7). It’s the back-end of a network doubleheader, following San Antonio-Boston at 10 a.m. (Mike Tirico, Hubie Brown). Stay tuned to the KABC-Channel 7 post-game show (3 p.m.) where reporter Curt Sandoval has a special story about Valencia High’s basketball team and how it has dedicated its season to David Stroud.

== Set the alarm: Kevin Harlan and Clark Kellogg call UCLA’s basketball game against rival Notre Dame (Saturday, at the ridiculous tipoff time of 10 a.m. at Pauley Pavilion). A-teamers Bob Dekas and Bob Fishman produce and direct it.

== That early start is a result of the network also covering the last two rounds of the PGA’s Buick Invitational from Torrey Pines (Saturday and Sunday, 1 to 3 p.m.) with Jim Nantz, Nick Faldo and the usual suspects who will keep reminding us about what happened there in the U.S. Open a year ago, when the network wasn’t there.

== Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds ramp up Fox’s NASCAR coverage from Daytona for the Daytona 500 qualifying (Sunday, 10 a.m., Channel 11). On Saturday (5 p.m.), they’ll also do the Budweister Shootout from Daytona International Speedway.

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But even more bitchin’ is that ESPN has “an original interview” — that’s how they classify them now? — with ever-hyper-cool-Nazi- pretending-actor Tom Cruise during today’s edition of “NASCAR Now” (ESPN2, 2 p.m.), where he talks about filming “Days Of Thunder” back in 1990 (he was Cole — no relation to Dick — Trickle back then).

A quip from Cruise before he jumps on the couch: “You know it’s just…it’s just America. It’s something about driving in a car. For me as a kid growing up, I always wanted to race cars. I came up with the idea to make this movie about NASCAR, it’s just a piece of America and these icons who were there in the beginning and created this sport, you just see our history through time, our love affair with the automobile. It’s a very unique kind of racing that feels very American. Rubbin’s racin’, you know.”

You can almost hear Will Ferrell as Ricky Bobby sayin’ it the same way. With better actin’.

== Motor sports writer Louis Brewster reports that NHRA and ESPN agreed to an extension that will give the network exclusive rights through 2016. The two have been partners since the 2001 season. In 2009, same-day coverage of qualifying and finals will be shown on ESPN2 for all 24 events in the series.

ESPN program manager Joe Marcello said the sport has shown “wonderful growth” and is among the “best values and sports on our network.”

However, he acknowledged that the current economic status could result in less advertising. He also said the current lineup of announcer Paul Page and analyst Mike Dunn are solid and there are no current plans to go live.

“Our biggest challenge is the time between rounds and the oildowns,” said Marcello.

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== In what Golf Channel calls “a first-of-its-kind documentary,” the network presents “Uneven Fairways,” produced in partnership with Moxie Pictures, that shows an era “when honor and fair play took a backseat to segregation, revealing the story of the little-known, but rich history of the African-Americans who had the courage to stand up for their rights and pave the way for future stars of golf.”

It’s hosted by avid L.A. golfer Samuel L. Jackson, based on the books “Uneven Lies” by Pete McDaniel and “Forbidden Fairways” by Calvin H. Sinnette.

Charlie (Sifford) (pictured here) has told me of some wild stories of things he had to endure,” says Tiger Woods in the documentary. “He is the Jackie Robinson of our sport.”

Set the Tivo for Wednesday, 9 p.m. with several replays.

== Prime Ticket has dedicated Tuesdays to Dodgers this winter, and while we missed out informing you about a replay of the 1965 World Series game 7 last week, this week’s offering is Game 1 of the 1988 World Series against Oakland and that walk-off home run we can’t seem to remember very much of lately (7:30 to 10 p.m.)

Coming up:

Feb. 24: World Series Game 5 vs. Oakland (Hershiser’s clincher)
March 3: 2004 NL West championship clicher vs. San Francisco (Steve Finley’s grand slam)
March 31: Dodgers-Padres from Sept., 2006 (Back, to back, to back, to back).

== Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire do NBC’s NHL coverage of Detroit-Pittsburgh (Sunday, 9:30 a.m., Channel 4). The network also announced, in its flex scheduling, it will do Philadelphia at the N.Y. Rangers on Feb. 15.

== ESPN2 will carry the 2010 World Cup qualifying match between the U.S. and Mexico on Wednesday (4 p.m., from Columbus, Ohio). JP Dellacamera and John Harkes call it with sideline reporter Pedro Gomez.

== AND THE CLOSING ARGUMENT:

From The Onion Sports (linked here):

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Polamaluesque Puppy Dominates Puppy Bowl

SILVER SPRING, MD–His long black hair flowing behind him as he threw himself around, across, and over the field at Animal Planet Stadium in his trademark reckless, acrobatic style, 9-week-old puli Troy Pupamalu dominated Puppy Bowl V Sunday by relentlessly hurling his body into squeaky-ball carriers and punishing adorable downfield retrievers with torrents of blindside licks.

At the conclusion of the two-hour contest, which was won by everybody for the fifth straight year, Puppy Bowl organizers honored Pupamalu with the Most Valuable Puppy award for causing five fumbles, recovering three lost plush footballs, and returning a bouncy hedgehog toy for an 80-yard touchdown. Long known for his physical play, Pupamalu was fearless in his pursuit of intimidating pit bull mixes, larger and fluffier dogs, and his own tail.

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